Metaphrase is the word-wise translation of verse poetry in prose, whereby the rhyme scheme and the metrum are not always respected. Furthermore, the explanatory repetition of a word can be designated by a synonym as a metaphrase. If the second possibility occurs, the whole can be described as a rhetorical stylistic device.
The term is derived from the Greek (μετά ~ afterwards, φράση ~ expression, word) and can be translated with an afterword or a traced expression. The translation shows quite clearly what we are dealing with when we accept the metaphrase as a stylistic figure: namely, with a trailing word [which specifies and refines the former in the form of a synonym]. Let us look at an example.
Who steal the cherries?
It was the child, the child from before!
In the above example, the noun child was specified by the synonym child and thus immediately repeated. This correction of the expression – for it becomes clear that the meant is not only small but also a child – is called metaphrase. Thus, the figure is related to the Correctio.
At the beginning it was described that the metaphrase can mean a literal transmission of poetry in prose. Furthermore, the literary transmission of a poem can be designated as such, that is, line by line, word by word. Let us look at a simple example.
Lightening, thunder, all around
Soon the rain falls on the ground
Lightning, thunder, everywhere
Soon the rain will fall to the ground
The first two verses in English follow the pattern of a couple rhyme, while our metaphrases of the lines, ie the word-true translation, no longer show a rhyme scheme, and also neglects the rhythm of the text. However, it is noticeable that the English template was transmitted word by word and also line by line.
Now, however, a text can also break the bound speech, which in this case is imposed by the verse form (line break, speech break) when it is transmitted in prose. If the above example were to find a prosaic correspondence, it would look as follows:
Lightning, thunder, everywhere. Soon the rain will fall to the ground.
The decisive difference here is that the bound speech, that is, the line break, was dissolved in order to make a poem from the poem. But this is still oriented word by word on the template. The metaphrase can thus have three meanings.
A brief overview of the meanings of the metaphrase
Either it means replacing a preceding word with a synonym and can be understood as a style-figure in this case. Then it is related to the Correctio and has a similar effect as this stylistic device.
Moreover, it can mean the literal transmission of verse in prose, whereby the rhyme scheme, the meter, the rhythm, and the tied speech of the verse can be broken. Nevertheless, the poem forms the basis, which is not expanded.
Furthermore, the term can mean a translation of verse poetry, which is performed word by word and line by line.